There are several dog breeds that were developed specifically to handle cold or very cold temperatures. Since winter is coming (sorry, couldn’t resist), I thought I would share a few that I think make the best cold weather dogs.

One of the key features that separate cold weather dogs from the rest of the pack is hair coat composition. Most of the cold weather breeds have a double hair coat which means that they have a softer, dense undercoat that is covered by coarser, longer guard hairs. This gives them a double layer of insulation. It also usually means that they shed like the devil a couple of times a year when they completely lose and replace their undercoat. Without further ado, let’s jump in.

Siberian Husky

best cold weather dogs - husky

These dogs were quite literally bred to run. They are a favorite of dog sledders and really do well in very cold climates. They are very high energy and make great pets for active individuals – think running buddy. Huskies also have quirky personalities – they like to talk and quite literally clown around. Aside from running, one of their most instinctive behaviors is digging. In colder climates they do this to build underground dens for protection in harsh winters.

  • Size: Medium – from 20-23.5 inches in height
  • Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
  • Children: good with children
  • Other Animals: social and enjoys other dogs but may not be best for homes with small animals
  • Grooming: profuse shedding seasonally
  • Known Health Issues: hip dysplasia, cataracts, corneal dystrophy, glaucoma

Bernese Mountain Dog

best cold weather dogs - Bernese

Sweet, gentle giants the Bernese Mountain Dog is known to be a fantastic family pet. They are just as happy participating in hard work and play as being a couch potato. They are particularly noted for being good with small children and have been known to be great companions for toddlers learning to walk since they don’t mind lending a helping hand.

  • Size: Large – 75-100 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 8-10 years
  • Children: good with children
  • Other Animals: social and enjoys the company of other animals
  • Grooming: profuse shedding twice a year
  • Known Health Issues: Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, bloat, mast cell tumors, thyroid issues

St. Bernard

best cold weather dogs - St. Bernard

Saint Bernards were bred to serve and are happy helping with chores. They can be quite stubborn but are won over with affection and mutual respect. Bernards can be protective and it is a good idea to control this instinct rather than encouraging it too much.

  • Size: Giant – 25-34 inches in height
  • Life Expectancy: 8 years
  • Children: be sure to socialize them early
  • Other Animals: when raised with them they can be friends
  • Grooming: seasonal grooming, may need weekly brushing
  • Known Health Issues: Hip dysplasia, bloat, cancer, epilepsy, heart problems, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)


best cold weather dogs - Newfoundland

This is another breed that is considered a great family pet but they do grow to be very large. They love the water and are very strong swimmers, often being utilized for water rescues (they can even be seen jumping out of helicopters for cold water ocean rescues). Newfies are happy playing with the kids outside, working (they’re great at pulling sleds), or hanging out on the couch.

  • Size: Large – 120-150 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10 years
  • Children: good with children
  • Other Animals: usually social
  • Grooming: sheds a bunch – weekly brushing necessary
  • Known Health Issues: Hip dysplasia, bloat, hypothyroidism, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)

Alaskan Malamute

best cold weather dogs - Malamute

Bred to work hard, Malamutes can pull a load over snow or run for miles. They are friendly and outgoing but not too demanding of their owners. Unlike their cousins the Huskies, they tend to be relatively quiet but will “talk” to their owners as a display of affection or happiness.

  • Size: Large – 85 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
  • Children: good with children
  • Other Animals: can be hierarchical – there may be some tension until pack order is established
  • Grooming: heavy seasonal shedding, may need weekly brushing
  • Known Health Issues: Hip dysplasia, cataracts, bloat, hypothyroidism, renal cortical hypoplasia, chondrodysplasia

Final Thoughts

You’ll notice that all of these are relatively large dogs and this is partly because they can produce significant body heat. Smaller breeds do not do this as efficiently. An honorable mention in this category goes to the group of breeds developed in Europe for herding and working – German Shepherds, Belgian Tervuren, Belgian Malinois – these guys have a double coat and the ability to work well in very cold conditions.

Since the breeds mentioned above have so much insulation and most of them are very large, there are a few things to keep in mind when caring for one. First, these dogs are not likely to be happy in very hot climates. Areas that frequently reach temperatures in the 90’s (F) or higher will be problematic for these dogs – even with air conditioning.

Also, for the large and giant breeds above, it is recommended that they not be fed growth formulas as puppies. This is to avoid having them grow too fast which has a detrimental effect on their joint development. Regular adult dog food is the preferred option.

Another thing to remember about large breed puppies is that their joints remain very “loose” for a significant period of time so it is not recommended that they be involved with high impact activities until around one year of age. This means that activities with significant running and jumping should not be aggressively pursued at a young age.

If you’ve made it this far I hope you’ve enjoyed this very brief look at a few interesting cold weather breeds. There are definitely more out there but these five are true lovers of arctic temperatures. As always, if you have any comments or questions please be sure to leave them below. Thanks!